On Protestant Missionaries and Their Chinese Assistants’ Book-distribution around Imperial Civil Examination Halls


Author: BAO Xiaowan, Lecturer, School of Foreign Languages, Shanxi University.


From 1830 to 1905, Protestant missionaries and their Chinese associates boldly ventured into the imperial civil examination halls, which were the central pillars of Confucian tradition and feudal bureaucracy, for the purpose of distributing books. They systematically disseminated Christian beliefs, Western science, technology, and social knowledge to Chinese intellectuals, employing relatively advanced media and media products for their time.

As the three-stage development of book distribution activities outlined below shows, the “adaptation strategies” of early Protestant missionaries, prior to the 1880s, existed merely in form, since the condescending attitude of early Protestant missionaries who believed in the superiority of Western civilization and who aimed to suppress Confucianism, prevented their message taking root. However, their successors adapted to the rapidly evolving social landscape of late Qing China and adjusted their publishing and distribution strategies.

In addressing the success or failure of their book distribution strategies, it’s crucial to acknowledge the significant shift, from rejection to acceptance, in the attitudes of Chinese intellectuals and officials toward Western civilization, with Christianity as its core, following events like the First Sino-Japanese War, the Hundred Days’ Reform, and the Boxer Uprising.


book-distribution around the imperial civil examination halls, Liang Fa, Timothy Richard, the Religious Tract Society, the Christian Literature Society

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